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What’s it like to take a working holiday in France?

Ski Jobs France has started a blog so potential working holiday makers can see what it is like to live and work a summer or winter season in France. We will share our knowledge and experiences to inspire you to take the trip of a lifetime!

France Travel Blog

Bar and Hostel Work in the French Riviera

Bar Jobs France

“Everything is going along swimmingly, almost all settled in here currently looking for an apartment with Ben and a couple of others, otherwise the job is great. Kevin is really easy to deal with which I am sure you already knew.

French school went well, I was put into a B1 class which was definitely a challenge but I think it helped me a lot and my host family were very good, I got lucky as two of the sons were 18 and 21 so they took me out a few times and got to attend a couple of “soirees”.

To make things a little easier I’ll try run through my experience when I started work.
You arrive at the hostel and you will be greeted by Kevin who will take you through the hostel and show you a around a bit and introduce you to any people who may be working at the time. Then he will do a quick induction with you going through basic things about the hostel, the owners etc. Usually before you arrive he will already have you on the roster to start working on training shifts. I have already done training shifts in cleaning, laundry/beds, driving, shopping and I will begin on bar this Friday.

After speaking with Kevin today he said I probably won’t be doing many cleaning or laundry shifts anymore and mainly just shopping and bar, so there is an opportunity to progress quite quickly but it really depends on your performance and opportunities available. The accommodation they provide is ok, it will change by next year as they are trying to sell the house that currently houses the staff but they are committed to ensuring that you don’t go homeless and are looked after.

Otherwise the hostel is run by a young team and they are really easy to work with, staff are allowed to drink at the bar when they aren’t working and the drinks are significantly cheaper than any other place in town (not sure if this information is essential but definitely was for me). Speaking French is not necessary unless you work on reception but then again you will not be asked to work there unless you can speak French. In saying that, if you did want to learn French some jobs do you give you an opportunity to practice and you can get away with basic French quite comfortably, which I thought was a bonus.

That’s just about everything I can think of at the moment, if anything else pops up I’ll be sure to let you know.”
From Ski Jobs France Traveller Jake, who is on the Bar Jobs France program.

Start of the Season in Chamonix

Alex skiing in Chamonix - December 2013

We were very happy to arrive in Chamonix which is absolutely beautiful. The accommodation is as we expected and because there is only 2 of us in the apartment (supposed to be three) it is fine. The apartment is also right next to the Brevent lift, so all we have to do is walk out the driveway and up the stairs to the lift and if we need to get the centre of town we are only a 3 minute walk down the hill.

As it is still early in the season we have only had a few shifts but they are becoming more and more as people start to arrive for the Christmas period. That being said, work is pretty flexible so if you want to work a lot or a little you have the option of both.

We have had plenty of time to go skiing which has been great. Not all lifts are open but there is enough skiing for us to do for the mean time, especially when Ryan is learning snowboarding and I am trying to sharpen up my skiing technique. There is snow due this coming Thursday and Friday which we are hoping opens up a few more ski areas. The photo is of myself about half way down ‘Les Grand Montets’ which was taken on the 9th of December. Thanks again for everything. Alex

2013/14 Ski Season – 100% Jobs & Accommodation Success

Ski Jobs France - job and accommodation success

Congratulations to all the participants on the 2013/14 Ski Jobs France program who will be heading to France for the winter ski season. We are stoked to announce that 100% of participants have jobs and accommodation organised for the winter. It’s been a massive effort from all our team to make this possible for everyone!!!

Many participants have already left home and are currently travelling in Europe, the UK and various countries around the world. In preparation for winter work, we have participants studying French in Paris, Annecy and Chamonix. Others are still working hard back home, learning French and saving up their dough for the trip of a lifetime.

We were pleased to see the month of October brought fresh snowfalls to the Alps down to low altitudes. Some of the fresh stuff has melted, which can be expected for this time of year, however, up high the snow looks like it has settled for the winter! All looks promising for another epic ski season, hopefully similar to this picture from last winter. See you on the slopes!

Ski Shop Work in Val ThorensLaurence working in a ski workshop in Val Thorens

Was working and living a ski season in France what you expected?
I didn’t know what to expect. I sort of expected the worst and hoped for the best. The season has been more than I imagined and it’s very strange now that it’s all coming to an end with friends leaving and so on, which seems a waste because the snow is still really good! The backcountry skiing was unimaginable and the young party vibe of Val Thorens I had read about but was still really impressed by.

On average, how many hours per week did you work?
36-40 hours per week:
– Monday-Tuesday off
– Wednesday 9:00am-1:00pmSkiing in Val Thorens
– Thursday 9:00am-11:30am |chance for a ski break | 2:30pm-8:00pm
– Friday 9:00am-12:00pm | 2:00pm-8:00pm
– Saturday 4:00pm-8:00pm (couple of times until 10pm preparing skis for Sunday)
– Sunday 8:30am-12:00pm | 2:00pm-8:00pm
– Our shop didn’t do too well so was often empty throughout the week and anticipated busy periods didn’t always come.

Advice for others?
Be really sure about how many hours you want to work. If you don’t need to work full-time you’re going to wish you hadn’t. If you can get by on just 15 hours a week then just do that. There are mostly French employees in the shop (maybe 80-90%) even though a very English speaking town, so it is better to know French.Laurence in the Three Vallees France

What was the accommodation like?
The accommodation is cramped but you get really used to it very quickly and it still becomes the place you call home and enjoy. I’d recommend central accommodation over better quality accommodation. i.e. I’d found living in a room with 3 bunk beds and 4 other people 30 seconds from the pub and shops much more enjoyable than a 10min walk to the other-side of town for an apartment with your own bedroom.

Would you recommend the Ski Jobs France program to others?
Yes. Excellent advice, really took the stress out of planning a season. You can’t beat arriving and knowing you have a job. I appreciate the large effort Ski Jobs France put into my season. Being on call 24/7 and able to email/Skype any emergency concerns was fantastic.”

Feedback from Ski Jobs France participant Laurence.

January 2013 – Now, I feel like a proper Seasonnaire!

Finally, Work in France in Val d Isere and Tignesthe day arrived. After months of saving and planning, emails with my employer, and having finalised my visa, flights, finances and travel insurance, I said farewell to friends and family and was heading to Paris. I was ready for the culture, lifestyle and language.

I flew with Korean Air, and stopped over in Seoul. I was lucky enough to be put up a 5 star hotel for the night. When we landed in Paris, I was a very relieved man. I had planned a 3 week trip pre-Alps trip, which saw me cruising around Paris, northern France, Belgium, Amsterdam, and then a week-long French course in Chambery with If-Alpes. The course and school itself was fantastic. The fact that the entire lesson is in French, as well as the co-curricular activities, it forces you to learn the language. And, a week is not enough. If you are looking to get very confident in the language, I would recommend a month minimum. I really enjoyed the small town and the pace of the city, so was sad to leave.

After Ben skiing in Val d Isere Francesaying farewell to Chambery and class mates, I pushed onto Bourg St Maurice, where I was met by my flat mates, and driven to Val d’Isere. And what a drive. With the curvy roads, steep cliffs, and amazing panoramic views, it was certainly an experience. The village itself is quite nice, and took a week or so to get used to what would be my future social haunts. As I am working in the premier nightclub in Val, I don’t head out drinking every night. And that is probably a good thing. The first week or so does see opening parties at a new bar almost every night which are full of seasonnaires. Unless you have an absolute pristine immune system, you have a good chance of falling ill. On the positive, I lost the weight that was creating my beer belly. Now, I feel like a proper seasonnaire!

The big positive is of course the skiing and snowboarding. We’ve been lucky enough to have equipment provided to us by one of the outlets, and I try and get up there pretty much every day. It may seem like a no brainier, but you have to want to be amongst the mountains. The realities are that the living quarters are small, as expected, and work hours can be long at times. So, the biggest positive is that the entire ski fields are your playground. Get out there, and enjoy it.

We also get a few discounts, including cheap rates for gym membership. So, after a big 4 or 5 hour ski session, I treat myself to the sauna and spa and stretch down. As the French say, tranquille.

Have to run though, the powder is calling. Au revoir. Ben

December 2012 – Will it be a White Christmas?

Oh how things can change with a couple of weeks of SNOWFALLS! 🙂 After a meaty storm at the end of November, December commenced with a bang with almost constant snow and deep accumulations to low altitudes, touching the base at the very lowest French resorts. Ski resorts throughout were opening early or revelling in special weekend openings before official opening dates. For many staff, the first days at their new job involved shovelling, shovelling and more shovelling – there were a few sore and fatigued bodies around, but some big smiles with so much powder!

A day or 2 of sunshine here and there and even more snow rolled on in. In mid December, temperatures sharply rose with unseasonable rain to very high altitudes. The warmer temperatures actually had a good effect on the snow by stabilising the base. Cooler temperatures quickly followed with more snow accumulations.

As we write, it’s snowing juicy cotton wool flakes and the topsy-turvy weather is to continue with some more sunshine tomorrow, then a rain/snow mix is set to settle across the Alps. However, Christmas looks like it may be very cold and snowy with a new weather system forecast and potentially moderate to heavy snow! You never know with the Alps though.

For now, here’s what some of our participants have been saying about their arrival to the French Alps and their ski jobs:

“It’s phenomenal. Great skiing, great people, great work and great party. I’ve got a really nice boss and all the staff are French in my shop. My French isn’t that great. Then there’s people through Craig’s side of town/roommates who r Danish, Swedish Norwegian etc. It’s tiring (even without the party) just skiing, working and acclimatising to the altitude. I have my own bedroom sharing with a French employee who works in another shop. We’ve been hitting up the sports centre a lot too in the evenings. Gym, 4 saunas, 3 spas and a pool were very impressive to us.” Laurence in Val Thorens

“We arrived at Morzine last Saturday night. Nic and I have a room together in the staff apartment just out the back from the lodge which we’re really happy with. We have been blown away by the alps so far and we were lucky enough to get up Avoriaz last Sunday. There are no guests staying until Saturday which has given us a week of training to become familiar with everything. The staff here are also very friendly and accommodating. Thanks for all your help! I can tell it’s going to be a great 4-5 months.” Nicola and Zac in Morzine

November 2012 – Snow On The Way!

With last year’s warmest Autumn in recent memory still in the back of our minds, when only the very highest resorts had snow at the beginning of December, we were licking our lips when the first real dump of the season settled in across the Alps at the end of October producing 20-40cm of fresh white stuff.

It was a pleasant change in France to have temperatures drop from the teens to below zero, awakening the skiing senses. But since then it has warmed up a little and rained and snowed periodically, with no real substantial accumulations, except for the Southern Alps which were hit by a couple of early season storms prompting an early weekend opening of Montgenevre.

So what can we expect for December. Unless temperatures drop again and we get a few new storms it looks like only the high altitude resorts will have decent snow on piste. Well just in – we are very happy to say that the weather seems to be cooperating and there’s a decent dump of snow and colder temperatures forecast for the last week of November. The snow level will be a little high to begin, but will progressively drop to bring snow to the base of just about all the French Alps ski resorts. Winter seems like it’s finally going to take a grip!!!

June 2012 – Life After Snow: European Adventures

I’ve been on the road since leaving VT. Btw….it is the strangest feeling coming down the mountain and not seeing snow, but actually seeing grass, trees, and animals. The end of my season was fantastic. I finished up work on the 1st of May, so had almost two weeks to be a ski bum. So I honed in on my snowboarding skills. We had the mountain to ourselves, and it was still snowing some days. For end of the season, Arnaud and Cedric took everyone from the Chalet and the Hotel down the mountain on a two night camping trip. Everything was supplied, and they took us out to an amazing restaurant overlooking the country side!!!!!!

I’ve had a great season with them, and I can’t thank you enough for putting me in contact with them! You were such a help in making this season great!!!!!!! Cedric was really happy with me, and has said we could look into visas for next season. I was pleasantly surprised with quite a large bonus, which has allowed me travel Europe even longer!

I’m off travelling till about the end of July, but was wondering if you could help me look for some work for August. If you have any suggestions that would be great! Let me know if I can be any other help to you. I would love to help you get more people doing this. It’s well worth it!!!

Cheers

Loz

April 2012 – Parties n Powder to End the Season

Hey hey!!!!! Life has been one big party here the last few wks with farewells and long ski days!!!!!! I’m taking full advantage of this awesome snow! We had 40cm over night on Tuesday!!!!

I’m here till the end of the season, as they have asked me to stay on, and then they are taking us on a camping trip on the 12th May. it’s been a great season!!! I think my body knows it’s going to end soon though! Feb and March were crazy busy months and it’s only just started to quiet down the last two weeks. I’ve loved it though! I want to come back, and my boss Arnaud, has thrown the idea around of sponsoring me for my visa next season to potentially help manage the self service, so fingers crossed that i can come back!

I’d be happy to get in contact with anyone that’s interested in coming, so feel free to pass on my email, FB or Skype to any future applicants! Hope all is good!

6 April 2012 – Après and Spring Skiing

We are just back from a tour of the Alps and the spring sunny weather does not get much better! South facing slopes were becoming a little thin down low, but most other slopes had plenty of nice spring snow. Conditions were firm most mornings, we chased the sun around the resorts, adventured up for a few hikes and had some spectacular runs. We gunned one run from 3,400m down to 2,100m – 1,300m of vertical drop in 12 minutes and the legs were feeling it afterwards.

It was t shirt weather at the base of some of the lower resorts, but once up high there was plenty of snow to be had. 

Après skiing was pumping in the bars every afternoon especially since daylight savings had kicked in! Goggle marks and tans were everywhere.

We hear the snow is back with some adverse weather this week, so hopefully some more fresh powder to be had up high for all those seasonnaires!

We continue post a heap more photos on Facebook, so check it out if you haven’t done so already!

14 February 2012 – Getting Snowed In

What a season it has been for snow so far in the Alps. There was an abundance of snow in December and this continued on into January with the biggest blizzard since the 80’s (at least that’s what the locals were saying). How much snow actually fell was hard to say because winds reached up to 200 km per hour on the peaks. Much of the great base that had accumulated up high was literally stripped and blown away to settle further down the mountain and in the valleys. Cars literally disappeared overnight and a face mask and goggles were a must just to walk outside.

One of the Ski Jobs France participants was working in a mountain restaurant in Val Thorens. Normally they ski down after work, but due to the intense wind and heavy snow with waist deep powder, ski patrol advised that it was safer to stay the night and wait out the blizzard. It wasn’t long before a party erupted with drinks flowing, music pumping and the gourmet French chefs cooked up a 5 star feast!

Australia Day in the Alps

When overseas, Aussie’s go HUGE on Australia Day, and this year was no different with everyone joining in! We were lucky enough to still be in Val Thorens and it was one of the best blue bird days of the season! After skiing we embarked on a pub crawl, working our way from the lowest pub in the resort to the highest pub in Europe. On our journey we gathered a few more Aussies and Frenchies and visited bars from all over Europe – Irish, French, Swedish, Danish, Dutch, English and Rum (yes we founded a new country in the Rum Bar).

Inevitably there was some blood with one of the Frenchies showing us his moves on the dance floor in typical Savoie style. Intentionally or unintentionally, he then decided to head butt the dance floor!!! A bloody shirt, concerned Swedish girls, some bandaids and another drink and we were on the move again to the depths of the Malaysia night club, said to be the biggest in the French Alps. We demanded free entry as it was Australia Day and we were Aussies. 10 minutes of intelligent negotiation proved useless, so up stepped one of the best looking members of our group to work her magic. Apparently for free entry, all that is required is a little cleavage and a kiss on the cheek! Within minutes we were all in and feelin’ the European baseline beats!!!

The story has to end here as no one quite remembers the rest of the night, but I found some nutella crepe receipts the next morning, so we must have indulged!

Anyway, that’s all for now. It’s been really cold in France lately, into the -20’s at night, but it has kept the snow in pristine condition!

Christmas 2011 – Waitressing in Val Thorens

Ski Jobs France Blog

Job is going great!!!!! I started on the 9th so I’ve been there for just over two weeks. They wanted to train me up in the bar, so they offered for me to start early. Cedric and his brother Arnude are great to work for. Days are long and I am on my second day off in two weeks, as it is the holiday period but I love it. They really look after you. All my accommodation and ski pass is included in my contract.

I’m living with a girl from Belgium. And you weren’t joking when you told me about small apartments!!!!! Our little place is very cute. My bed is in the kitchen….the microwave lives at my feet!!! Everyone is really helpful with teaching me French and they have trained me in the bar and I can now understand most things in French!!!!!!!

There is heaps of snow up here. It has snowed for the past week and a half every day!!!!! But it’s beautiful. I get to ski to work every morning. My skiing is improving…especially as I have learned fast to ski in the dark on my way home from work!!!!

Merry Christmas from Val Thorens!!

20 December 2011 – Chalet work in Chamonix

G’day,

Chamonix is fantastic and our first guests arrived on Friday so we are into the swing of things. We arrived 2 weeks ago and there was no snow on the ground in town but that has all changed now! We have had heaps of snow in the past fortnight and the mountains have actually been shut quite a bit due to avalanche risks and the like. We got out for our first snowboard today which was a big relief to get that out of our system.

The work has been pretty flat out, training the past 2 weeks and today was actually our first full day off since we got here and most days have been a lot busier than we thought but it was mainly just getting the chalets properly cleaned, fixed up and well stocked (as well as obviously lots of snow clearing). So I think it was just an initial onslaught. Hopefully things will settle down into a routine here and we can get up the mountains now that they have opened.

The staff accommodation is very good and we can pretty much grab anything we want from the stores for food so I would say the living conditions are above average compared with most chalet companies around Chamonix. There is a small team of 6-9 here including management and part timers so it is a good bunch. One of them also went through Ski Jobs France to get the job, so it is good to have someone from back home.

Anyway, all good on the Chamonix front and we will get into the pattern of things shortly!

18 December 2011 – Over 1m of Fresh Snow Hits the Alps

Some say it was the biggest storm to hit the Alps in 10 years. We are not sure about that, but well over 1m of snow has fallen in many ski resorts in the French Alps in the last few days. The avalanche risk is extreme and some ski resorts have temporarily closed many of their runs. No need to worry though – once the snow stops, they will all be open. Funny thing is that just 2 weeks ago many of these runs were closed for another reason – there was no snow! Now there are windblown powder stashes of up to 2m, setting the base for a wicked snow season!

Talking about snow base depths, all the reports are yet to come in as some snow is still falling and settling, but Les Arcs is boasting 120 to 320 cm snow base and many other resorts reporting well over 200 cm base. We can’t ask for much more considering it is still December! Now that most ski resorts in the French Alps have a good base, the terrain is so extensive that you are basically guaranteed to have great ski conditions for the winter.

All this has arrived just in time for the Christmas and New Year period, with thousands of holiday makers now making the slow and snowy journey up to the resorts. Some roads were temporarily closed, but all seem to be open now. Look out for more snowfall which is forecast during the next week.

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14 December 2011 – The Arrival Of The Snow

We must admit, with the arrival of December we were all a little nervous leading into the beginning of the 2011-12 ski season in France. All the participants on the Ski Jobs France program were arriving in the ski resorts to be greeted with green and brown ski runs. There was literally no snow! Only the very highest resorts had snow due to the Alps experiencing one of the driest and warmest Autumn’s in recent memory. 

But how quickly things can change in the ski resorts. A few days later an epic storm moved into the area with days of snowfall and multiple reports of over 1m of fresh snow (snorkel sales went through the roof!). Check out some pictures here. Then a few days of sunshine, before another system has pushed through providing more fresh powder.

The upcoming week looks very promising with multiple disturbances moving through the Alps with the heaviest snow forecast for Thursday and Friday. Accumulations again could be pushing the 1m mark. So just in December we could be seeing more snow than many places had all last winter. Not a hard mark to beat as last winter was the driest for almost a generation in many parts of the Alps.

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